Two local history teachers took to the Swift Current Museum last week to share how they spread and gain knowledge of war and its veterans.
Chris Garner and Riley Sharp were the guest speakers for this month’s Lunch and Learn, catered by Night Jar Diner Company.
“We've been doing a lot of research on Canadian veterans over the past several years,” Garner said. “We use it in our classrooms and then in our personal life, just with family connections. So, we were really honoured to be asked to come and talk about some of the stuff that we're doing in our classrooms, and out of our classrooms.”
The Lest We Forget Project was brought to the school by Sharp after he took part in a study tour through France and Flanders in 2017.
Put on by the Gregg Centre for War and the Canadian Experience at University of New Brunswick, the tour gathered teachers from all over the country and focused on remembrance, memory, Canadian Involvement in the war, and most importantly how these things are taught.
Garner and Sharp took turns sharing their individual experiences and personal connections to the war, and how the contrast between personal and collective memory inspired their adaption of Lest We Forget.
“When we're looking at the individual experiences and then comparing it with a collective memory, there's sometimes gaps in that; what we remember and why we remember versus what was experienced, don't only like always line up,” Garner said.
The government has digitized service records of every Canadian solider who died in the first or second World War, containing extraordinary details, usually handwritten but sometimes typed.
“What’s fascinating is most of them have never been opened,” Sharp said. “They’re digitized, but there aren’t enough historians in the world to look up hundreds of thousands of records.”
Each student is asked to choose just one veteran’s War Diaries to deep dive into, and piece together all of the details to create a narrative of that person’s life before and during the war.
Sharp added that students will choose a soldier based on if they’re related, if they were local to the Swift Current area, if they share a last name, or are from a certain unit or regiment.
“Remembrance is really difficult—for some, it's immensely challenging," Sharp said. "My grandfather cried every year when I saw him in that Remembrance Day Ceremony speaking. It's complex. It's something that, each year at Remembrance Day, I think we need to think about. I know my grandmother told me Remembrance Day is not about glorifying war. I mean, there's sometimes it feels like maybe that's what people think it's about. But what is it about? What should we do? What are we going to think about?"
He ended their presentation with Siegfried Sassoon’s poem, On Passing the New Menin Gate:
Who will remember, passing through this Gate, The unheroic Dead who fed the guns? Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate, — Those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones? Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own. Paid are its dim defenders by this pomp; Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone, The armies who endured that sullen swamp.